- The Race 2010
- All about the race
Every year for the last weekend of August, Aigurande pays homage to one of the noblest shellfish in French cuisine, crawfish. The traditional festival, held for the St Sylvain, was created by the now defunct Gastronomic brotherhood of Berry-Marche crawfish masters.
A big sale of living crawfish is organised on the sport before and after the festivities while cooked crawfish is served by chefs from all over the region.
The festival starts of the Friday with a big fair. On Saturday, a funfair takes place while the festival starts and lasts until the Sunday evening. A huge fireworks is fired at night on the communal pond followed by ball dancing.
Sunday is devoted to the election of the most virtuous girl in town, followed by a folkloric show behind the trees of the Promenade. The virtuous girl competition has been held since 1895. It is open to Aigurande young women aged 17 and 18, who keep their title for a year.
Aigurande is the site of an old pilgrimage to Notre-Dame de la Bouzanne, a statue of the Virgin Mary sheltered in the chapel of the same name and a protector of the city.
The once very popular pilgrimage continues to this day.
In 1793 during the Revolution, the bell was removed while furniture was stolen and sacerdotal clothes were destroyed. The statues of Notre-Dame de la Piété and St Roch were tied to a horse and dragged around town. The vandals demolished St Roch and tried to cut the Virgin’s statue in two but failed. One of them managed to chop the head off with an axe. A young man took it, brought it home and hid it in his daughter’s closet. Searches were made but not in the girl’s bedroom and the head of the holy statue was saved. The statue was later restored and now spends half its time in the parochial church or in the chapel.
As soon as a serious disease affects someone in the country, the family come to Notre Dame or to the nearby spring. Prayers must always be said by three women if the sick person is a woman, by three men or three children.
Aigurande has not been on the Tour de France map for long but it has already brought luck to Briton Mark Cavendish. In 2008, the Tour took off from AIgurande the day after Cav’s first victory on the race. The year after, a stage between Limoges and Issoudun again crossed Aigurande and it was again won by the Briton. The rider from the Isle of Man is now the most precociously successful stage winner with 15 victories. Cavendish has already done better than Miguel Indurain, Gino Bartali and Louison Bobet or other star sprinters such as Mario Cipollini or Erik Zabel, the six times green jersey. One more stage win and the Briton will equal Jacques Anquetil or Charles Pelissier. Two more and he will make it into the all-time top 10. If he keeps winning five stages per Tour, he will catch Nicolas Frantz this year, Andre Leducq in 2012, Bernard Hinault in 2013 and Eddy Merckx in 2014… He is only 26.
|Antiquity||Aigurande means water limits or border (Equoranda).|
|1087||Aigurande is cited as belonging to the abbey of Marmoutier.|
|11th and 12th century||The town is involved in Anglo-French conflict.|
|1200||Aigurande belongs to France.|
|17th to 19th century||Construction of the main buildings in Aigurande. Most houses are equipped with wells as the underground abounds in water.|
|1475||The village becomes the property of the La Roche-sur-Yon family.|
|1847||George Sand evokes Aigurande in her novel Francois le Champi.|
|1906||Opening of the rail line between La Chatre and Gueret. The station closes down in 1987.|
|1911||Aigurande reaches its peak in population with 2,600 inhabitants.|
|1943||Held in Aigurande, 19 Jews are arrested and deported.|
|2008||Aigurande becomes the smallest town to hold a Tour de France stage.|
Built between the 11th and 14th centuries, the Notre-Dame church is listed on the Monuments historiques list. Remarkable are its 14th century chancel, its 16th century bell tower with an 18th century dome or its 15th century nave without a transept. Also remain traces of fortifications.
The site, naturally protected by the deep gorges of the Creuse and Gargilesse rivers, was ideal for fortification. The castle gave birth to the village in the 10th century. Lords of Gargilesse, the Naillac family built the castle and the chapel (late 12th century) and retained the for centuries. In 1650, during the Fronde civil war, the castle was plundered and burnt down. Rebuilt in the 18th century in a monastic style, it supports the church.
Novelist George Sand own a small house in Gargilesse and loved the site: “No castle has a more mysterious and romantic situation.”
Subprefectures : Aubusson
Population : 124,000
Website : www.creuse.fr
Equidistant from Paris, Lyon and Bordeaux, Creuse has a population of 124,000 over 260 communes, making it one of France’s least populated areas. In 150 years, world wars and rural depopulation saw the department lose half its population. The phenomenon stopped from the 1990s. A third of Creuse inhabitants are aged over 60, making it a projection of France in the 2030s. The urban areas are around La Souterraine (Pop: 5,600), Aubusson (5,000), Bourganeuf (3,500) and of course Gueret (14,600), which forms with Ste Feyre the only urban agglomeration in Creuse.
The war monument in La Foret du Temple looks pretty ordinary at first sight. But it is unique in France as it pays homage to a woman. One can read at the back of it the following inscription: to Emma Bujardet, killed by grief. 1917. The monument was paid for by her husband, Alexandre Bujardet, who insisted that the names of his three sons killed at war be accompanied by that of their mother, who died of despair after losing her three children. In spite of controversy, the municipality and the inhabitants all contributed to finance the building of the monument, which was inaugurated in 1922.
Built towards the end of the 11th century, it was listed as a Monument historique in 1930. The imposing building, a sober Romanesque church, is interesting in that it was practically not altered throughout the years. The two gates and all windows are topped by round arches while the nave is composed of six rows. The high pillars give an impression of elegance by the addition of columns attracting the eye away from their thick base.
Le Puy Castle
The 18th century Du Puy Castle shelters remains from the Templars including a Templar cross. It was built on the ruins of an old castle that was first a Templar house before going to the Order of Malta. Its farm yard, bread oven, revolutionary clock, sundial, its traditional farm and the manor house built in a park with deer and brooks full of trout make the domain an exceptional site. Shows are held in the castle based on the Perrault Tales and La Fontaine fables.
A fortified town at the confines of the Berry and Bourbonnais provinces, Boussac has a long history essentially linked to that of its castle. The fief of the princes of Deols in the 14th century, it was bought in the 16th century by the family of Jean de Brosse, a war companion of Joan of Arc. From the Hundred Years War to the Revolution, the castle was in constant turmoil but its remains marked by the presence of novelist Georges Sand and later by philosopher Pierre Leroux. It was also home to fabulous tapestries now on exhibition in Paris.
The mediaeval town’s narrow streets are lined by old houses with towers or 17th century balconies in wrought iron. The Romanesque church is placed under the patronage of Ste Anne.
It was built by Jean de Brosse (1375-1433) after the Hundred Years War in the years 1420 to 1430 on the ruins of an old fortress destroyed by the English. An old companion of Joan of Arc, he was the bearer of the holy oil in the crowning of Charles VII in Reims. In 1426, the King named him marshal of Boussac. On the main gate can still be seen the armouries of the De Brosse family, representing brushes. The castle changed hands throughout the years and after narrowly avoiding destruction during the French Revolution, was bought by the municipality in 1837. It became the headquarters of the sub-prefecture, which was suppressed in 1926. It then became a barracks for gendarmes, who left in 1940. In 1965, Bernadette and Lucien Blondeau bought an empty and decayed castle. They restored it and opened it to the public for exhibitions. George Sand loved the castle a lot and the bedroom in which she stayed can be visited.
Lavaufranche is the only village in the region without a church or a graveyard. Its main monument is a house of the Knight Hospitalier, built in 1180.
The Knights Hospitalier commandery
The fortified house was built around 1180. The square keep probably dates from the same period while the rest of the quarters are mainly from the 15th century. In the chapel can be seen the tomb of commander Jehan Grimau (who died in 1480), as well as beautiful 15th century frescos recently uncovered. Among the commanders of Lavaufranche was Guy de Blanchefort, who became grandmaster of the order.
At the confluent of the Voueize and Tardes rivers, in a hilly and green region, Chambon sur Voueize is a pleasant little town close to the Voueize gorges. Its priory, founded in the late 9th century by the St Martial abbey in Limoges, held the relics of Ste Valerie. Close by can be seen the ruins of the Leyrat Castle, often described as the castle of Bluebeard.
Ste Valerie abbatial church
The 11th century Romanesque church in fine granite, with its vast and well-balanced proportions, is one of the largest in the Limousin region (87 metres long). In 985, the relics of Ste Valerie were brought to town by monks from Limoges to protect them against the Viking raids. A legend says that a spring appeared at a spot by the Tardes river on which the monks deposited the relics. A fountain is sill visible today on the site.
Viaduct over the Tardes
The large metal railway viaduct, overlooking the valley from 92 metres and spreading over 275 metres, was built in 1890 by Gustave Eiffel, one year after the tower which brought him worldwide fame.
In 50 BC, Caesar’s legions stopped in Evaux les Bains and started exploiting thermal baths in the area. Unfortunately a fire and several invasions destroyed the site and the thermal activity was only revived in the 19th century. The Middle Ages are a period of wealth in which the St Pierre St Paul abbatial church is built around the relics of St Marien, the patron hermit of Evaux. The church was partly destroyed in 1942 but remains of the town’s prides.
In 1831, the thermal baths are launched and the viaduct over the Tardes, built by Gustave Eiffel, brings thousands of tourists to the spa. In the Second World War, the Grand Hotel Thermal was commandeered by the Vichy government to detain several disgraced French politicians. In 2001, the only spa town in Limousin renovated its facilities to become an up to date resort, specialised in rheumatology, vascular medicine and gynaecology.
In 2004, the local cycling club decided to revive the famous post-Tour criterium that had been stopped for 28 years. The amateur race, sponsored by Tour speaker Daniel Mangeas and by Bernard Thevenet, takes place the day after the Tour finish.
Saint Pierre and Saint Paul church
The superb and balanced 12th century Romanesque abbatial church went through several modifications in history, notably uring the Hundred Years War. It was built on the site of a 9th century monastery, itself established on the death site of 6th century hermit St Marien. Rebuilt in the Gothic style it is the only church in the region with a five-floor bell tower.
St Laurent church
Built in the 12th and 13th centuries, the church is full of treasures. More than twenty 18th century paintings by Italian master Giandomenico Lombardi (1682-1752) depict several major scenes in the life of Jesus Christ.
A little bit further, a representation of the church patrons can be seen as well as a beautiful altar-piece based on the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The restoration of both in 1961 required 10,000 sheets of gold.
A mile from the village, on the banks of the Cher in Courtioux, stands the Bordeaux castle, a private property. It is a well-preserved 15th century fortress with its surrounding walls, its machicolation and drawbridge. The castle has a beautiful wood mantelpiece sculpted around 1650. The castle was used as a set for 1991 film All the world’s mornings.
An important Gallo-Roman settlement, Auzances was one of five castles in the barony of Combraille and a fortified site seized by the English in 1357 during the Hundre Years War. The castle was demolished in 1830.
The domain of Coux
Remains of a Gallo-Roman villa were found on the spot. Panels on the site explain what such a villa and its baths looked like 2,000 years ago. The domain is a 50 ha park in which several animals can be seen: deer, swans or peacocks. A playground and a fishing pond are also available.
Prefecture : Clermont-Ferrand
Subprefectures : Ambert, Issoire, Riom, Thiers
Population : 604,000
Websites : www.puy-de-dome.fr
Like most of Auvergne, Puy de Dome saw its population crumble in the last century and has the same population of 600,000 today as in 1850. There are important disparities since Clermont-Ferrand, the main economic centre of the department, acoounts for 43 pc of the population. Clermont-Ferrand is renowned as the headquarters of the Michelin tyre company and as a major food-processing centre. Nature plays a major part in the life of the department, especially in its two natural parks: the Regional park of Auvergne volcanoes and the Livradois Forez park.
In 1140, Robert III, Count of Auvergne, starts the construction of an imposing castle. Its strategic position leads to the development of a tiny city whose importance grows with the years. It was seized and occupied from 1367 to 1369 by mercenaries working for the English. The town was surrounded by walls kept by the inhabitants in exchange for a tax exemption. In the Wars of Religion, the town was seized by the Protestants and finally burnt down by the Leaguers. In the 19th century, Herment’s role decreased and many men left to find work in Lyon or Bordeaux.
Notre-Dame d’Herment church
Built between 1145 and the beginning of the 13th century by the chapter of the Clermont cathedral on a land given by Count Robert lII, the collegiate church is unique in Auvergne. Inspired by the Limousin Romanesque style, it also shows Gothic elements. It is the third largest church in the region and is remarkable for its furniture.
The village is known for its cheese, Bleu de Laqueuille. It’s a cow cheese of some 2.5 kilos best tasted between May and September. It is ideally accompanied by a sweet white wine. Its production is now mostly industrial.
A small mountain village with slated roofs , Murat le Quaire, at 1,010 metres high, overlooks from its rocky ledge La Bourboule and the high valley of Dordogne. Around the typical Auvergne village, the old volcanoes like Monte Dore or Puy Sancy stand high, their flanks covered with forests nesting beautiful lakes. The village conceals treasures of architecture like the town hall, an 18th century manor-house, the Julien Barn or the House of Toinette, a lightshow recounting the life in Auvergne in 19th century. Singer Jean-Louis Murat took his alias from his native village.
Regional Park of the Auvergne volcanoes
The Volcanoes Park, stretching over 120 kms, is the largest regional natural park in France. Its wildlife is especially remarkable but its interest also lies in a preserved rural culture and way of life. The park was created in 1977.
Between 400 and 1,886 metres, the park spreads over nearly 400,000 ha in two departments, Cantal and Puy de Dome.
Four volcanic massifs are part of it: the Dome Mounts (Puy de Dome, 1,465 m), the Dore Mounts (Puy de Sancy, 1,886 metres), the Cezalier (Signal du Luguet, 1,465 metres) and the Cantal Mounts (Plomb du Cantal, 1,855 metres)
The Dordogne rises in Mont-Dore, at the foot of the Puy Sancy, and the town owes its reputation to its fresh air, its thermal waters and the quality of its skiing facilities.
The name Mont Dore comes from the Celtic word Dor meaning torrent.
The St Pardoux church is a tribute to the thermal vocation of Mont Dore. St Pardoux is said to have used the virtues of the local water to cure paralytics and his cult dates from the 6th century. The church is remarkable for its elegant and modern decoration based on the theme of water. The baths are listed for their neo-Byzantine style. They house remains of Roman thermal baths and frescos from the 19th century. The metal framework is the work of Gustave Eiffel. In the whole town, old palaces recall the golden age of the spa. But Mont Dore never neglected its other asset, the mountain. Its cable car was built in 1936 by air pilot Diieudonne Costes, who first flew from Paris to New York non-stop in 1930. The lifts made Mont-Dore the third ski resort in France at the time and the cable car is still one of the busiest in the country in the summer season. At the top, wooden stairs lead to the top of the Puy du Sancy and offer a wonderful view over the volcanoes and the region.
Since 1898, a cable car has climbed along the valley at the speed of one meter per second. It is the oldest electric cable car in France and its machinery is listed as a monument. The ten-minute ride gives a perfect view on the Dordogne valley and the waterfalll. The way down can be done on foot by the Chemin des Artistes, paying homage to the numerous painters who took the waters in the golden age of the spa.
In August 2008, an helicopter flew over Super-Besse for a strange ballet of 45 rotations. The aircraft was installing the pylons for the Funitel, the latest Super-Besse ski lift, taking the flow of skiers from 2,400 to 3,000 persons per hour. The construction of the Funitel was a technical prowess knowing that each pylon is made of a 2.5-tons barrel, a six-tons post and four 2-tons braces. The helicopter could only load a maximum of three tons at a time. Each pylon is assemble by some 500 bolts. Two weeks earlier, a 100-ton crane had lifted the two bottom pylons. The funitel, which cost 15 million euros, is a prototype using for the first time cabins with a 20-seated capacity. The line uses only seven pylons against 19 for the old equipment, which had to be stopped 30 to 40 days each season because of the cold and wind.
Nicolas Bourbaki is a celebrity in Besse and yet he does not exist. Born in 1935, he is in fact an imaginary mathematician, whose name was used by a group of scholars led by Andre Weil to write and publish texts in the 1930s. The group first met in Besse in 1935. Its composition evolved with the years but the aim remains the same: the redaction of a treatise called Elements of mathematics, still unfinished at this stage. Besides the treatise, the group, organised as an association in 1952, organise regular seminars. In spite of criticism, the group had a major influence on the teaching of mathematics.
The name Bourbaki was first used by scholar Raoul Husson for a joke in 1923. Husson dressed up ias a bearded mathematician dubbed professor Holmgren and gave an incomprehensible lecture to demonstrate an imaginary Bourbaki theorem.
Named to the Strasbourg University, Henri Cartan and Andre Weil decided to reunite former fellow-students from Ecole Normale Superieure to try and modernise the books at their disposal. Among the rules of the group, it was decided that 50-year-old members should retire to leave their place to younger generations.
Nicolas Bourbaki’s influence had a major influence in the 1960s and 1970s.
Group members won five Fileds medals, the highest awards in mathematics.
Cadel Evans officially won only one Tour de France stage. And it is not quite a victory since it was awarded only after Alexandre Vikokourov was disqualified for doping after winning the Albi time trial in 2007. Twice a Tour runner-up in 2007 and 2008, the 2009 world champion finished third in a stage identical to this one, between Aigurande and Super-Besse-Sancy in 2008. In front of him, Riccardo Ricco crossed the line first before being caught for CERA. Second in the same stage, Alejandro Valverde finished in the same time as Evans, one second behind Ricco. Since then, the Spaniard was suspended for his involvement in the Puerto scandal. Evans was then the moral winner of a stage finishing like this year at the top of an impressive ramp.
|1270||Bernard VII de la Tour makes Besse a free town.|
|1905||Marcel Michelin is one of the resort most regular skiers.|
|1910||Birth of the ski club.|
|1961||Besse becomes Besse-en-Chandesse.|
|1961||Creation of the ski resort of Super-Besse by Germain Gauthier.|
|1963||Jean-Claude Killy wins the first Henri Oreiller challenge.|
|1973||Besse-en-Chandesse and Saint-Anastaise are united to form Besse-et-Saint-Anastaise.|
|2005||Link with the Mont-Dore resort.|
|2007||The resort launches the Mountain and Snow fair to promote the Massif Central resorts.|
|2008||Construction of the Funitel of la Perdrix.|
The first construction dates from the 12th century. The chancel is from 1555 and was restored in the 19th century. Some of the sculpted stalls in the chancel were destroyed by fire in 2007. The church houses the Notre-Dame de Vassiviere statue. The black madonna, with a child on her lap, is taken in procession to the Vassiviere sanctuary, 7 kms from Besse, on July 2 and stays there for the summer before returning to Besse on the first Sunday in September.
Between Besse and Super-Besse, the round lake appeared 6,000 years ago from a explosion sparked by the clash between a lava flow and groundwater. The right flank of the Puy de Montchal volcano was blown to pieces and replaced by the lake.
A mediaeval and Renaissance town, Besse et Saint-Anastaise has a rich architectural heritage. Narrow paved streets, old shops, 12 and 16th century mansions as well as a belfry bear witness to this past. Linked to French royalty thanks to Queen Margot, Besse was for long a fief of the Medici.
The stage sees the peloton head towards the Massif Central, which is contemporary to the Armorican Massif. The riders will be back on a soil made of 300-milions-year-old granite or at least what remains of it after such a long erosion. The rocks along the roads were originally 15 kms below the surface. After crossing the Silllon Houilller we will talk about in length in the next stage, the bunch will tackle the ascent of the Sancy, the highest point in the Massif Central. The Sancy is an old volcano which last erupted 220,00à0 years ago. Some 20 kms from the finish, the riders will ride through Chambon sur Lac and its hot water springs reflecting the heated activity underground.